Did you know that only 64% of people own the real estate their homes are on? Of course, whether you own your home or rent it from someone else, keeping it child-friendly and safe for your kids isn’t an option — it’s absolutely critical.
That said, making your home safe for kids will mean something different depending on how old your children are. From the moment you bring your little bundle of joy home from the hospital, they become an ever-changing opportunity for growth and possibilities. To help you stay on your toes, we’ll first discuss some ways to prepare your home before a new baby arrives. Then we’ll talk about making it safe for toddlers and older kids. Last we’ll talk about ways to prepare your home when you’re expecting visitors who have kids.
Setting Up Your Home for a New Baby
A great thing about babies is that, unlike toddlers, they spend pretty much all their time lying around. You may need a natural sleep supplement to cope with overnight disturbances, but at least they don’t move around much. Even when they do start to become mobile, any damage or harm they can get into is somewhat minimal. You may need to become more vigilant when they start crawling on all fours, but at least for now your work isn’t too complicated.
If you’re looking for things to do before you bring a new baby home from the hospital, one of the first things you should do is prepare a sleeping area for your baby. You need a crib that’s in excellent condition, very sturdy, and safe. You might want to check out customer reviews for the crib you have, or check to ensure there’s never been a manufacturer recall for it.
You won’t have to worry about your little one launching themselves over the edge of the crib for a while, but you should worry about linens inside it. Babies don’t benefit from pillows or blankets in any way, and they risk suffocating if they sleep or play with these things. It’s popular to have padded cushions tied to the inside of crib walls, but these are far from necessary, and they may pose a risk as well.
Other than their crib, the only other place a baby is likely to have access to is the floor. Choking hazards are going to be a concern for a few years, so you should get a small object tester: a small tube made of plastic which tells you if something is a choking hazard or not. If an item fits inside the tester, then it’s small enough to choke on. If you can’t find a small object tester, a toilet paper tube is roughly the same size, so it can be used instead in a pinch. Anything that can fit inside the tube cannot be allowed near the baby — especially not on the floor where they would be difficult to supervise.
Along with small objects, make sure there are no cords or strings within reach of your baby. Besides being a potential choking hazard themselves, they can also be a strangling hazard. From now on, phones need to be charged on top of tables and counters. Electrical cords for appliances and electronics should be very well concealed, or kept unplugged and tied up when not in use.
Finally, although you don’t have to worry about your baby crawling around for a few months, be prepared by having high-quality baby gates ready. This is critically important, especially if you have stairs. Even if your baby isn’t particularly mobile, if they somehow scoot to the top of the stairs while you’re not looking, you’ll be relieved there was a barrier there. This is also important for keeping little ones out of the kitchen (see below).
Setting Up Your Home for Toddlers
There are two things toddlers love, seemingly above all else: running fast and touching everything. And while this high energy and natural curiosity should be fostered and encouraged, it’s your job to set appropriate boundaries for them.
Sharp corners pose a considerable threat to children just learning to run. The coffee table is at the perfect height to jab a little one’s knee, and the kitchen table is right at their eye level. Foam corner covers could mean the difference between a minor bruise and a serious medical emergency, so use them generously.
A remarkable thing about toddlers is that simply living in a fully furnished apartment can be risky. That’s because there’s the danger of having a television set or bookshelf fall over on someone. This is another reason to keep electrical cords well out of reach — a rambunctious child could tug on one, pulling whatever it connects to down on top of them. An additional precaution is to use straps that connect your television, shelving, and other heavy furniture to the wall. When you talk to experts about child proofing a home, this is one of the first suggestions they’ll make, and it’s one you should take seriously.
Electrical outlets are another famous health hazard for young children. Clean energy may be the way of the future, but it’s no less dangerous. While individual pronged outlet covers are common, these aren’t very effective because they’re easy to pull out of the wall. They can also be a serious choking hazard if found lying around. Instead, specialized outlet plate covers should be used that screw into the wall.
It can be a pain to install them, but it’s worth the effort.
After shock hazards, the concern most parents and experts have is from burns. Whether from a hot stove or hot tap water, kids seem to have a knack for experiencing heat injuries. To combat this, your first step should be to set your water heater to less than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Although scalding from hot tap water is common, it’s entirely preventable just by setting your water to be a little cooler. Next, make sure your child isn’t allowed to play underfoot any time you’re working in the kitchen. As long as you never leave a hot stove or dish unattended, you shouldn’t have to worry about them getting burned in the kitchen. If your child is too young to follow directions yet, use baby gates, swings, or bouncy chairs to keep them away from the danger zone.
And while we’re on the subject of scalding from hot water, don’t forget that your bathroom doors should stay shut and secured. It only takes a small amount of water for a baby or toddler to drown, so until they’re a few years old and toilet-trained, make the bathrooms off-limits. For the same reason, if you have a pool it’s absolutely critical that it’s securely closed off at all times. You may need to install a fence around it for this. Of course, if you’ve been planning to hire a pool building contractor to set up a pool in your yard, make sure it’s built with children in mind.
Setting Up Your Home for Older Kids
As kids grow older, physical threats may become less common, but other kinds of dangers become prevalent. Instead of changing their environment to keep them safe, it becomes necessary to start teaching them how to be safe in any environment. Still, growing up is stressful and complicated, so although some freedom is needed, so are guardrails.
One such guardrail is using a service that monitors and controls your family’s internet access. The web is important as a resource for learning and a tool for understanding the world, but there are many websites your children aren’t ready for, and others which could be dangerous. Using software that automatically blocks certain websites and tracks access to others can help you keep your children safe when they’re online.
Even the best software can’t work all the time, however. That’s why it’s important to do more than try and control how your kids use the internet. Instead of simply giving them rules to follow and a software-controlled WiFi network, actually take time to educate them about the potential dangers online. They should not feel afraid of the internet, but they should know how to avoid its dark side.
Another way you can protect your family at home is by using a home video surveillance system. These can be connected to smart home systems, like a facility management software, so you can view every room of your house and yard from a computer or smartphone. Your kids should know that the video system is used to keep them safe and discourage break-ins, and not to spy or eavesdrop on them. However, knowing they’re on camera can certainly help kids stay on their best behavior. You can add an additional layer of accountability by using clear glass doors on home offices and other rooms.
Another way technology can be leveraged to keep everyone safe is to use some kind of emergency pager system to keep you connected to every member of your family. Of course, if you’re okay with your kids owning cell phones, that’s an even better idea.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your children is not to keep them safe, but to help them keep themselves safe. As they get older, make sure they learn practical skills like swimming and emergency first aid. Take them to martial arts classes so they can learn to defend themselves when necessary. Teach them to recognize red flags in situations and relationships, like when someone asks them to keep a dirty secret or threatens to hurt them or someone they know. Most children that get into trouble are targeted by trusted friends and relatives, not strangers.
Make sure they know that a threat or red flag can literally come from anywhere, and that they’re prepared to react intelligently and safely if it happens. Finally, make sure they understand how to respond to an emergency situation, including who to contact in the event that they or someone else are in danger.
One way to make sure your children understand these critical skills is by role-playing with them. It’s one thing to know what you’re supposed to do in dangerous situations, but it can be hard to translate that intellectual knowledge into action when it matters most. To make sure your children won’t freeze up when they have to react, narrate common scenarios to them and ask them to “fill in the blanks” with how they would respond if the situation happened to them. This is an excellent way to communicate important information, because it’s highly visual and practical as well as verbal.
Growing up is challenging, even for the toughest and smartest of kids. By making sure your children feel safe at home and preparing them to handle life on their own, you’re doing them a great service.
Preparing Your Home for a Visitor’s Kids
Having houseguests is exciting, but it can also be a challenge that borders on overwhelming. There are so many things to think about and prepare for, and when your visitors have children of their own, it only gets more complicated. And if you don’t happen to have children yourself, not only are you less likely to be prepared to hosting the children of others, but you won’t have little ones to help you keep your younger guests company.
One of the first things you should do when you decide to have company over is to find out what your guests’ children like to eat. While this is a curious gesture for adults as well, especially for overnight visits, it can be especially important to children. Many kids haven’t developed an appreciation for a wide variety of foods, so knowing which ones they’ll be most comfortable with in advance will improve their stay — and their parents’ stay — dramatically.
You might also ask their parents if there is anything special you can have prepared for them in advance, such as a high chair. Whatever you can provide yourself will allow your guests to pack lighter and enjoy their stay more. Along those lines, if there are any potential hazards in your home for children in their age range, you must prepare against those as well. This could mean putting up baby gates and keeping cords and furniture secured, depending on the age of the kids.
Try to make your young visitors’ guest room as enticing as possible. Make sure their bed is clean, made, and inviting. If you have some toys stored away, you can make a bedroom ten times as comforting by placing them in the corner or on a shelf. Try putting them with other pieces of art to spruce up the room.
Finally, if there’s any critical maintenance work that needs to be done around your home and yard, before the guests arrive is a good time to get it done. This is especially important for anything that could pose a health or safety hazard for children. For example, if you have a dead tree in your yard that needs to come down, contact the best tree removal service in your area. Don’t leave it to be a crushing hazard while young visitors are around.
Whether preparing for guests or children of your own, these tips can help you do it with success.